Rail roundup

Office of Rail Regulation reports that total government funding for the rail network was £4bn in 2012-13, representing 30.9% of the industry’s total income. This is a fall of 4.2% compared to 2011-12 and by 9.1% in 2010-11. Passengers covered an increasing portion of the income, up to 59.2% from 57.4% in 2011-12 and 55.6% in 2010-11.

Tuesday saw the 20th anniversary of the opening of the Channel Tunnel. Some 325m passengers have used it in the last two decades, less than the numbers predicted. But operator Eurotunnel moved into the black with revenues of over £0.8bn in and profits of £16.5M in the last financial year and is beginning to pay down its £3bn net debt. See Editor's comment.

Numbers of people in Spain using high speed trains has surpassed those using domestic flights, according to reports. Passengers on long distance and high speed routes jumped from 22M in 2012 to 25M last year and numbers are up another 18% so far in 2014 according to Felix Martin who runs the national train company RENFE’s passenger services in north east Spain. Overall domestic travel including trains, planes and buses was down 16% last year. Spain has the largest high speed train network in Europe.

Network Rail has announced plans to bring Waterloo International rail terminal back into use as part of its £300M Wessex Capacity Programme. Work is expected to start next year.

Labour should renationalise the rail industry if it wins the next election, a group of 31 prospective MPs has said in a letter to the Observer. Labour leader Ed Milliband said Labour was looking at all options but would “not go back to old-style British Rail”. The Conservatives said recent estimates suggested renationalising the railways would add at least £10bn to the UK’s budget deficit.

The Rail Freight Group has welcomed a proposal from Eurotunnel to significantly reduce the level of access charges for rail freight services using the Channel Tunnel. The changes, which take effect from June, will see tolls for the ‘off peak’ period, when most traffic operates, reduce by 25% compared to 2013 levels, with no further increase until at least 2018.  Eurotunnel’s ‘ETICA’ incentive scheme is also to be enhanced and extended such that new rail services will see an average overall discount of around 35-40%. The commitment by Eurotunnel comes as a response to the legal investigation opened by the European Commission against France and the UK for their failure to implement European rules on access to infrastructure in the Channel Tunnel.